Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Peter Yang: Master Of Ideas & Light
Peter Yang builds perfect portraits out of props, concepts and lighting
“Joshua” in Madison, Wisconsin, for a personal project.
Because sunlight is coming from, like, a light-year away, if you meter your head and you meter the ground, that’s the exact same exposure. That’s impossible to re-create unless you can get a light on top of the Empire State Building. But the difference between 16 feet and eight feet—it’s such a difference. That’s not a big deal when I’m working outside; I just need heavy-duty stands, sandbags and enough power on the lights. Where it gets really tricky is indoors; I’m under a nine-foot ceiling trying to do the same thing. That’s when I put lights on the ground and bounce to the ceiling and back down, doubling the distance.”
Adds Yang, “That light coming from above is really the important part. No matter what kind of lighting I do, I want it to have some of that sun feel. It’s a different aesthetic when you just do kicker lights. Yeah, you get that edge light on the side of your face, but what does that mean? To me, it says I have lights and I know how to point them.”
Anchorman Matt Lauer from The Today Show.
“In getting ready for that, I did a ton of research,” Yang says, “and saw basically every portrait that was ever done of him. Rolling Stone had done a lot of research, too. I met with them and they showed me basically every photo that had been taken of him. I feel like the shot where he’s smiling at the camera has been nailed so many times by so many great photographers. I noticed the photos I was drawn to were the more documentary, reportage images of him where he’d be smiling or looking off. It felt more real to me, and I thought at the time, man, if I could just add that to a portrait session, that’s my ultimate goal. That’s good to think about, but you can’t really control that.”
Wrestler and reality TV star Hulk Hogan enjoys a soda in Clearwater, Florida.
“I think when you have a short amount of time with someone,” Yang says, “the inclination is to shoot and shoot, and see how much you can get out of it. After shooting for a few minutes, I knew I had nailed him looking into the camera and smiling. So instead of just continuing to shoot through the rest of it, I said, ‘Mr. Obama, I think we have some great stuff here, but I don’t want to just keep shooting. Can we just hang out for a moment and take a break?’ I think my heart was beating really fast; maybe I needed a breather. And he was like, hey, cool. We just started talking, and I don’t remember what we talked about. We were next to some kind of animal stable, so it didn’t smell so good in there. I think I mentioned that. But I always kept my camera up just to be ready to shoot. At one point, I said something, and he laughed, and it was just a natural reaction. It wasn’t even like I saw the moment, it was like something changed. I was tethered, and I heard a bunch of oohs and aahs from the back of the room. He smiled a few more times, but that one was just kind of perfect.”
You can see more of Peter Yang’s work at www.peteryang.com.
Hasselblad H2s with Leaf backs
(A75s and A22s)
Lighting & Digital
Profoto strobes and modifiers
Page 2 of 2